The agency is dead. Long live the agency!!

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Over the past 10 years, the agency world has been evolving at a rapid pace. The challenging of old models is accelerating and the current context is not sparing anyone. The hyper-agency model, which centralises and dispatches work internally, is not faring well with dematerialisation and the rapid evolution of the profession. Companies’ expectations go beyond deliverables; clients are looking for a co-creation of their brand. Creativity is now accompanied by a strong consulting dimension (see our article on branding) and the agency must rethink its role and its size to meet these new needs. Here’s an overview of a changing landscape.

The end of an era for the 360° and all-in-one agencies

Until recently, clients entrusted their entire communications budget to a hyper-agency with a large number of creative staff, graphic designers, editors, etc. The job was very simple: a specific need, and a range of actions in response: identity, print, digital, TV, Radio. The agency delivered a finished product. And that was it! Now, budgets have become fragmented and needs are no longer the same. The all-in-one solution no longer appeals, on the contrary, it may even put clients off, as today the trend is shifting towards personalisation and expertise. Time is up for the 360° concept, a term that is more evocative of a headache than it is of comprehensive support. However, the idea remains good: an agency should be a brand’s partner on all its issues.

The "integrated" agency, a Swiss Army knife approach

This is the belief of agencies that call themselves “integrated”, and this evolution represents a desire to move away from the traditional agency and to focus on the “toolbox” aspect. But the rapid transformation of our society and the needs of companies have undermined this model. 15 years ago, the Community Manager role did not exist and today it has already become almost irrelevant with the rise of other digital functions. Who was talking about Growth Hackers 3 years ago? And yet it is a very common and sought-after role. Profiles evolve quickly or are overtaken by constant technological innovations. Digital is not the only thing responsible, our jobs are also changing to become more human-oriented.

The 'commando’ mode dematerialised and cross-functional agency

The challenge is therefore no longer to respond to a set of specifications but to offer the manager the best course of action that will give him a competitive edge. To best address the challenges and find relevant solutions, the agency of tomorrow must be dematerialised. It will go from being “integrated” to “unintegrated” while keeping a global dimension and vision. This requires openness and the ability to think outside the box. The agency of tomorrow must speak the same language as its clients and must embody a results-driven culture. Tomorrow’s agency must develop models that are neither complex nor heavy handed, but with a solid, scalable structure and a strong entrepreneurial spirit. The objective is to work in “commando” mode by sourcing specialised skills adapted to each project as well as to the brand’s culture. Since 2017, we have found our breathing space by destructuring and decompartmentalising our agency. We are convinced that there are still so many cross-disciplinary avenues to explore that it would be a shame to settle for a single agency model.